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Vets' Rx for pets in hot weather: Reduced activity, no parked cars

Union Leader Correspondent

July 08. 2013 9:29PM
No matter how eager your dog may be to stay active in hot weather, as Mack seems to be, exercise your higher intellect and make him take it easy. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)
Signs of heat distress in dogs
Signs of canine heat stroke

Signs of heat stroke in dogs include severe panting, lethargy, disorientation, increased heart rate, 104-plus temperature, balance problems, inability to cool off, seizures, vomiting and then, finally, collapse.

Is your dog wobbly on his feet, not answering to his name? Is her tongue dry, or larger than normal, or is she hot to the touch?

Has his tongue gone from a “happy pink to brick red,” as veterinarian Kate Roberts describes it?

If you suspect heat stroke, take your pet to a veterinarian right away.

A veterinarian is able to slowly bring the animal's temperature down. Throwing an animal with heat stroke in to a cold bathtub could send them into shock, said veterinarian Lee Pearson.

Dogs are usually the pets of most concern in hot weather. Cats evolved in desert climates and are usually not companions for running errands, but even they can get over heated on a hot day.

Roberts said the best way to avoid problems for your pet on a hot day is to “lay low.”

— Meghan Pierce

K eeping cool on a hot summer day is important and special attention should be paid to young children and the elderly, but don't forget Fido.

"Just as we are trying to stay cool, we should try to keep them cool," said veterinary doctor Kate Roberts at Animal Hospital of Nashua at Amherst.

Pets should have access to fresh, cool water, she said.

"You want to keep their core cool," said Stephanie Frommer, director of shelter operations at the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey. "But don't dump ice water on them because you don't want to shock them either. You don't want to cause any undue stress on their hearts when their hearts are probably already pumping hard."

The number-one pet owner mistake, according to experts and authorities, is leaving a pet in a parked car.

"Don't leave your dog in a parked car. Even with the windows down, it can just get stifling in there," veterinarian Lee Pearson of Cheshire Animal Hospital in Keene said. "In 90-plus-degree weather it's just like an oven and the dogs just can't dissipate enough heat through panting."

Mildly warm days also pose hazards, the experts said.

"Even on a regularly warm day, 75, 80 degrees, with the windows cracked the inside of the car can easily reach 100 to 120 degrees," Roberts said.

It's important to remember dogs don't release heat the way humans do, Frommer said.

"They don't sweat. They can't cool themselves in hot air. Even with the window cracked. They can't get that air exchange that they need to keep themselves cool," Frommer said. "As much as possible during the really warm weather your pet is better off at home, not running errands with you."

Even if you leave the car running with the air-conditioner on, the engine could stall. Frommer said those who come across an animal left in a parked car on a hot day should try to find the owner or call local animal control.

Walking the dog on a hot day? Stick to the cooler times, such as morning and evening, and walk in shaded areas, the experts said. Hot asphalt or concrete can damage paws.

"If they are walking on a hot surface they can blister their feet very easily and then they can't release heat through their feet," Frommer said.

Depending on the dog, it might be a good idea to rule out walking on hot days at all. Puppies and older dogs and dogs with asthma, heart or blood pressure problems can fall into this category. Certain dog breeds are more prone to heat stress and heat stroke, such as bull dogs, pugs and Boston Terriers.

"In hot weather, it can be dangerous just to be one of these dogs," Frommer said.

These breeds are referred to as brachiocephalic, which means "short face" in Latin. Their squished-in faces mean they have limited airways, which makes cooling off harder.

"They are not able to dissipate as much heat through their face," Pearson said of these breeds. "Bull dog owners really have to take a lot of precautions and limit their time outside.... I wouldn't recommend any sort of walk when days are above 90."

All breeds should avoid excessive activity, even if the dog seems up to it, Frommer said: "There are some dogs that will just keep on going. That Labrador that keeps chasing the ball, you have to learn to put limits on them."

When it comes to water, don't make the mistake of throwing a dog into a pool or lake if you are not sure of the animal's swimming skills, Pearson said.

"Not all dogs can swim," he said.

Using a fan or air conditioner to keep cool? Give pets access to the same cool air, Pearson said.

If your dog is outside, keep him or her in a shaded area — and remember that the shade will shift as the day goes on. Pearson added, though, "I do not recommend tying dogs out, period, especially in the heat."

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